This is the fourth part of the series begun in August as we looked toward picking our first grapes, now this year is in the memory banks. My final portion of harvest memories includes my dad Jim, mom Phyllis and husband Ed.
In the early days of the family business, Jim was a key part of harvest since it was ‘all hands on deck’ from the youngest to the oldest members of the family. From picking grapes to helping in the cellar he remembers all of it as a family effort. Recalling a treacherous moment when he was in 6th grade, he still remembers getting caught on a conveyor belt, falling backward and hitting his head while he was working at the hydraulic press. He ran up to the house in tears and told his mother what happened. She checked him out and sent him back to the cellar-no worse for wear.
Later on, when he and his young family (including yours truly) moved into the family home following his parent’s retirement he was back to living on site as he had when growing up here. Many evenings he would go down to the cellar just a few feet away and punch down the cap in the open fermenter tanks lining the cellar-he noted we were ahead of our time because now these are all the rage among today’s winemakers. He always worked with brother John helping out-in fact if he traveled at all during harvest he curtailed his marketing trips to one or two days so he could be here.
Phyllis moved to the winery in 1964 when her in-laws retired. The following harvest she began weighing the trucks. She would go back and forth between the house and the weigh station (only a few feet apart) sometimes taking youngest daughter, Joanna, in the infant seat and keeping her at the weigh station. She remembers the growers would bring the grapes in large wooden boxes which were unloaded by hand. Long time growers from the area were Glaser, Giovannoni, Pedroni, Buchignani, Teldeschi, Zini, and Capucci. The last one she remembers would bring mushrooms and chestnuts while other growers brought apples and table grapes. They’d chat about the weather and the acorns-if you had a bumper crop of acorns you were in for a long winter. They would gather up the acorns from the winery yard and take them home to feed the wild pigs on their ranches (to fatten them up). She thinks it was more laid back then and less personal or more mechanized now.
My parents Phyllis and Jim.
Ed began his harvest memories with his stint in the cellar at Souverain Winery-it had rained and the Riesling was picked and brought to the crushpad. He remembers how slick the grapes were-almost slimy because of the breakdown of the berries once they had become wet-they were beyond ‘ripe’ to put it delicately. He later found himself in the cellar at Alexander Valley Vineyards. This time it was Cabernet Sauvignon and his job was to add sulphur to the must as it made its way into the fermentor. And added a bit too much—like four times too much! The winemaker Hank Wetzel, questioning what had happened, indicated he was concerned that the tank might not even ferment—all was well and the wine turned out to be an award winner! The excitement of the first load of grapes and the promise that brings every year is still his favorite memory. And being here, watching three generations of family members stand around as the first gondola is emptied into the hopper, just reminds him of how we’ve all made mistakes, learned from them and just delved deeper into this amazing family business.
My husband Ed and yours truly, it takes a family!
A toast to memories, with a splash of vino in my dino.